This is a review of the outbound London-Dar es Salaam via Nairobi service. To read a review of the return journey, click here.
CHECK-IN I arrived at Heathrow at 1700 for the 1900 departure to Nairobi. Check in was in Zone H, which is for premium passengers flying with SkyTeam carriers. There were two Kenya Airways desks open and I got in line for Premier World (business class). The man in front of me was having some issues and I was standing for ten minutes before the KLM desk said it would process me instead. I had already checked in online (online check-in is available between 24 and two hours prior to the flight - I changed my seat from row 4A to seat 1J). I made sure my bag was being checked through to Dar es Salaam and was told boarding would begin at 1745 from Gate 14.
THE LOUNGE I proceeded straight to security as I only had half an hour. Security was quick and I found the Skyteam lounge where I grabbed a drink and a bite to eat (steaming hot fish pie, steak and ale casserole, creamy pasta with butternut squash - all really good). It’s a large, bright space over two floors and there is a wine bar, a gaming zone, several PCs and free wifi. There are no announcements in the lounge and it was quiet where I was sitting upstairs next to the main feature - a living wall with 60 species of plants growing off it.
BOARDING Gate 14 was open at 1800 and I made my way there. Other flights were being delayed but at 1803 the flight was ready for boarding. There was immediately a long queue but there was no announcement for premium passengers so I waited until the queue went down.
Once on board I found my seat 1J, to the front of the cabin by the bulkhead. The business class cabin has 28 seats configured 2-3-2 in four rows and it was busy. Once I had settled in I was offered orange juice, sparkling wine or water. Menus and newspapers were handed out. We waited for a long time on the Tarmac. It wasn't until around 1930 before we eventually took off, although the captain said this would not affect our landing time. He said the flight would be seven hours and 50 minutes.
THE SEAT The seat is an angled lie-flat seat, deep red material in a hard cream shell. It looked a little worn and there were only four controls in the armrest - two controlling the main seat to go back and forward, and two for the footrest to be extended and retracted. The seat is 79cm (31inch) wide, and extended to a 193cm (76in), 176-degree flat bed. A good-sized table folded out of the left armrest and the AVOD control was under the inside armrest. As I was at the front of the plane my screen was attached to the wall and there was only a magazine slot for storage. Other seats have a cut in the seat in front for storage.
To see the seatplan, click here.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? I found the galley a bit noisy and the staff talked quite loudly during the flight when we were trying to sleep, so best go for the middle rows 2 and 3. If you prefer stepping over someone to them stepping over you then opt for window seat A or J. For economy class, the last row is near the galley.
THE FLIGHT Once we were airborne our dinner choices were taken. For appetisers there was a choice of smoked chicken breast with mango salsa and lemon or tabouleh salad with tomato humus, stuffed vine leaves and mango salsa. For mains there was a choice of beef rump curry with rice and vegetable Jalfrezi, or grilled cod loin with Creole sauce, roasted butternut squash and green beans and carrots or pumpkin ravioli with spinach and butternut in tomato sauce. Desert was apple Breton, cheese and biscuits and tea and coffee. There was an amenity kit with eye mask, lip balm, moisteriser, ear plugs, socks and a pen as well.
Drinks were served quite soon after take off and I realised other people had their ear phones so I tried to catch the flight attendant’s eye as he went back and forth but he never looked at me. It took about 25 minutes after take-off before I eventually got my earphones. The man next to me gave up and got his own out of his bag. The AVOD had a couple of new releases including the latest in the Twilight series, which was only out the day we flew. There were a couple of comedies and thrillers too but the TV selection was less impressive.
Dinner was served about an hour after take-off and I was given a starter of king prawns (which was not on the menu) as was the man next to me. The flight attendant apologised and explained it was his first flight and quickly replaced it with the correct food. It wasn't a problem and I enjoyed my tabouleh and the fish which I had for main. I skipped desert and went to sleep. I found the seat comfortable when it was fully extended and I slept on and off for about four hours. It was OK stepping over the man next to me. We were woken around two hours before landing with a continental breakfast and the head sets and all service stopped 40 minutes before landing in Nairobi.
THE TRANSFER On arrival there was an announcement saying any transfer passengers should head to Gate 6 where they would find details of the onward flight. When I got off the plane I followed the sign for transfers and was dismayed to see a large queue forming at the transfer desk with only one woman serving. There were no Kenya Airways representatives apart from her and I joined the queue aware that it was 0630 local time and boarding for my next flight (at 0805) was to begin at 0700. After standing in the queue a few of us decided, as we had our boarding passes, that we may not need to be there so we ducked out and went to look at the large screens. I was told by the airport worker there that not all flights were shown on the screen and I would have to go to the transfer desk. By now the queue was about 50 people long, so I went straight to the front and ducked under the ropes and showed the woman my boarding pass. I was told to go to Gate 10, which was a short walk down the corridor. At Gate 10 there was more security and my water bottle was taken from me. The gate had no toilets and no water machines and after an hour and a half it was announced that the Precision Air plane, which does the hop to Dar es Salaam, had a technical problem and we should all go and have breakfast. I went to the Simba business class lounge while others headed for a large restaurant. The lounge was a peaceful reprieve and I found a stool and some coffee and logged onto the free wifi, which was quite fast (you need a code from reception).
There were a few sandwiches and plenty of drinks. There was a comfortable seating area too.
At 1030 it was announced we would be boarding and we went back to the gate. This time we had to get on a bus and be transferred but I was happy to find that the business class cabin on the Kenya Airways B767-300 had long haul seating for this one hour flight. There was no AVOD but I was tired and slept most of the way, although I did have another continental breakfast.
ARRIVAL We arrived at 1200 and were bussed to the immigration hall. If you haven’t got a visa, and were hoping to get one on arrival, then prepare yourself for a long, hot wait. I had a visa and quickly filled out my arrival form and was through immigration quite quickly. My bag was not so fast and the arrival hall is not air conditioned so be sure to ask for a bottle of water before you get off the plane. I was out of the airport at 1245. Traffic in Dar es Salaam is a challenge and it took an hour to drive to the centre.
VERDICT The business class cabin is comfortable and although the seat is a bit worn I slept well. The crew were really polite and friendly. I found the AVOD a little disappointing but enjoyed the meal.
PRICE A mid-week return in January from Kenya Airways' website starts at US$2,457 (£1,588).
- To see an earlier review of the Kenya Airways London-Nairobi flight, ending in Nairobi and not transferring on to Dar es Salaam, click here.